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The best no-contract phone plans for every budget



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Everyone needs a smartphone these days, there’s just no getting around it. But a phone isn’t much use without some kind of data plan, and not everyone needs a traditional plan from one of the big carriers.

And while most plans from AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint/T-Mobile don’t come with a formal contract anymore, they still have arrangements that lock you into a specific plan, at a specific price, for a specific amount of time. They’re also “post-paid” plans, in that you agree to be held to specific terms and then pay your bill at the end of the month.

Smaller carriers, MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operators), and other companies offer similar plans—on the same networks—but without the strings attached. That means you can more easily jump from one carrier to another if your situation changes or you need to move to a different plan as your needs develop.

Though it’s impossible for us to test every carrier in every location, these are the best no-contract and prepaid plans on the highest-quality networks that we could find. They won’t be perfect for everyone, but we think these are the best no-contract phone plans available.

Credit: Visible

Visible is a great option if you’re looking to split a phone plan with friends.

Cost per month: $40 for one line, $100 for four lines
Data per month: Unlimited
Restrictions: Video limited to 480p, traffic can be de-prioritized if network is congested
Best for: Unlimited data, families and friends

Most of the pre-paid carriers here are actually owned by one of the big three network operators (AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile/Sprint). Visible is owned by Verizon, so you’re getting unlimited access to the network that has consistently ranked as having the best 4G coverage for years.

Visible sets itself apart from the competition here in a few key ways.

The biggest benefit in our book is that it’s among the cheapest unlimited data plans you can get right now at just $40 per month for a single line. The per line cost drops all the way to $25 per month if you combine four lines, which can be done among your family or friend group. You can even set it up so you pay all your bills separately with separate accounts, so you get the discount without having to hassle people for money each month.

There are a couple of restrictions to be aware of, but they’re the standard stuff: your traffic can be de-prioritized if the network is congested. Also, video streaming on your plan is restricted to 480p (DVD quality), though even the big carriers do this and it’s not that noticeable on a small phone screen.

You can use your Visible data to act as a hotspot for another device, though speeds are limited to 5Mbps and you can only tether one device at a time. Otherwise, for both single lines and groups of four, this is the best prepaid phone plan right now.

Sign up for Visible starting at $40/line

Google Fi

Credit: Google Fi

Google Fi’s quality can’t be beat, but its price sure can.

Cost per month: $70 for one line, $180 for four lines (plus fees)
Data per month: Unlimited
Restrictions: Video limited to 480p
Best for: International travel, heavy hotspot users

Google Fi bills itself as “a different kind of phone plan”—though in truth it’s more of a pre-paid phone plan that comes with a few extra perks. The most notable ones: unlimited full-speed hotspot usage and unlimited international texts and data. Those aren’t all that common on postpaid phone plans, so getting it with absolutely no contract is a nice deal.

The only hitch? Fi is more expensive than competing plans. A single unlimited line costs $70, though that drops to $45/line (plus fees) if you have four people. You can opt for a flexible version, though that costs $20/month (again, plus fees) for one person and $10 for every GB of data you use.

Google Fi’s coverage is very good, as your data can ride on the T-Mobile/Sprint network—including 5G if your phone supports T-Mobile’s 5G bands. It’s a nice plan, but the monthly price really only pays off if you are going to take advantage of the international and hotspot perks.

Sign up for Google Fi for $70/line

Tello

Credit: Tello

Tello’s plans can get pretty cheap.

Cost per month: $10/line for 1GB of data, $39/line for unlimited data
Data per month: Varies, $14 for 2GB, $19 for 4GB, $39 for unlimited
Restrictions: Speed is throttled after hitting data limit
Best for: People that want the cheapest service possible

There are a ton of cheap prepaid phone plans, but Tello offers a lot for a minimal monthly cost. You can build your own plan, starting with 500 minutes of calls, unlimited texts, and 1GB of data per month for just $10. That’s not likely to be enough for most people, but it’s a great low-cost option if you only rarely use a phone. You can upgrade to a more manageable 2GB of data and unlimited calls and texts for just $14/mo, or 4GB of data for $19/mo.

Your data moves through the Sprint network (it’s unclear if that will include T-Mobile now that they are merged into one company), which offers good speed but occasionally spotty coverage. You can even opt for “Unlimited” data, though that’s just 25GB before it dips to 2G speeds.

The one hangup with this is you’ll need a phone that supports Sprint’s CDMA network. Tello will sell you plenty of them, though we think an unlocked/Sprint-compatible phone like the iPhone SE or Google Pixel 3a offers the best value. It’ll cost more upfront, but you’ll be free to switch to another provider if Tello doesn’t suit your fancy.

Sign up for Tello starting at $40/line

Metro by Tmobile

Credit: T-Mobile

Metro by T-Mobile offers good perks for those who sign up.

Cost per month: $50 for one line, $120 for four lines (limited time)
Data per month: Unlimited
Restrictions: Video limited to 480p
Best for: People that want the cheapest service possible

Formerly MetroPCS, this is now the in-house prepaid brand of T-Mobile. The plans are pretty similar to the main T-Mobile plans, using the same network and offering a mix of unlimited data, hotspot features, and significant discounts if you sign up with multiple lines.

A single line of unlimited talk/text/data will run you $50/mo and includes 5GB of hotspot usage. But Metro really begins to pay dividends if you look to the higher-end plans, especially if you’re switching over multiple lines. Metro offers a wide range of promotions, phone discounts, and other perks (like included Amazon Prime membership on some plans) to sweeten the pot.

If you find the right mix, you can get a lot for your money. For example, four lines of the top-tier plan gets you unlimited everything, Amazon Prime, and 15GB of hotspot usage for just $120/mo. There are even phone discounts for switching, which can knock something like the new iPhone SE to just $99—after a bunch of confusing discounts and caveats (it’s still a phone plan).

Sign up for Metro by T-Mobile starting at $50/line

Boost Mobile

Credit: Boost Mobile

Boost Mobile runs great deals throughout the year.

Cost per month: $50 for 1 line, $120 for four lines (limited time)
Data per month: Unlimited, depending on plan
Restrictions: Video limited to 480p
Best for: Groups looking for a discount

Boost (at least in the US) is another T-Mobile-owned carrier—yes, there are a few of them—but that does give you access to one of the best mobile networks. Boost isn’t the best in any one area, but it offers an attractive mix that will appeal to anyone that wants unlimited data, an affordable price, and a ton of hotspot data.

Boost starts at $50/mo for a single line of unlimited talk/text/data, which is a bit more expensive than Visible but cheaper than Google Fi. It also has excellent group discounts right now, including four unlimited data lines for $120, and three lines for just $100/mo. If for some reason you prefer the T-Mobile network to Verizon, then this isn’t a bad backup plan.

Sign up for Boost Mobile starting at $50/line

The product experts at Reviewed have all your shopping needs covered. Follow Reviewed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest deals, product reviews, and more.

Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.





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